Methane-derived carbon flows into host-virus networks at different trophic levels in soil

Sungeun Lee, Ella T Sieradzki, Alexa M Nicolas, Robin L Walker, Mary K Firestone, Christina Hazard, Graeme W Nicol

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27 Citations (Scopus)
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The concentration of atmospheric methane (CH 4) continues to increase with microbial communities controlling soil-atmosphere fluxes. While there is substantial knowledge of the diversity and function of prokaryotes regulating CH 4production and consumption, their active interactions with viruses in soil have not been identified. Metagenomic sequencing of soil microbial communities enables identification of linkages between viruses and hosts. However, this does not determine if these represent current or historical interactions nor whether a virus or host are active. In this study, we identified active interactions between individual host and virus populations in situ by following the transfer of assimilated carbon. Using DNA stable-isotope probing combined with metagenomic analyses, we characterized CH 4-fueled microbial networks in acidic and neutral pH soils, specifically primary and secondary utilizers, together with the recent transfer of CH 4-derived carbon to viruses. A total of 63% of viral contigs from replicated soil incubations contained homologs of genes present in known methylotrophic bacteria. Genomic sequences of 13C-enriched viruses were represented in over one-third of spacers in CRISPR arrays of multiple closely related Methylocystis populations and revealed differences in their history of viral interaction. Viruses infecting nonmethanotrophic methylotrophs and heterotrophic predatory bacteria were also identified through the analysis of shared homologous genes, demonstrating that carbon is transferred to a diverse range of viruses associated with CH 4-fueled microbial food networks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number e2105124118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number32
Early online date10 Aug 2021
Publication statusFirst published - 10 Aug 2021


  • Methanotrophy
  • Methylotrophy
  • Predator
  • Stable isotope probing
  • Viruses


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